Photo credit: ManicMorFF from

We may fear heights (acrophobia), close spaces (claustrophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), or even public places (agoraphobia). But how do these fears develop? Psychotherapists may believe that presenting phobias act as a defensive mechanism against a more underlying area of anxiety, which is fueled by unconscious, repressed impulses. Behaviourists usually discard the content of phobias and instead focus on what role or how the phobia functions in the person’s life. Cognitive theorists will look into how people’s thoughts can heighten, lower, maintain and reduce their fear.

phobia – noun    (Mirriam-Webster’s Concise Encyclopedia Definition)

“Extreme and irrational fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation. A phobia is classified as a type of anxiety disorder (a neurosis), since anxiety is its chief symptom. Phobias are generally believed to result when fear produced by an original threatening situation (such as a near-drowning in childhood) is transferred to other similar situations (such as encounters with bodies of water), the original fear often being repressed or forgotten. Behaviour therapy can be helpful in overcoming phobias, the phobic person being gradually exposed to the anxiety-provoking object or situation in a way that demonstrates that no threat really exists.”

There is also evidence that suggests genetic factors that may predispose some to phobias rather than others. Sixty-four percent of patients with a phobia have at least one first-degree relative with the same fear (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002, pg. 167). Some may argue it is possible to learn or “adopt” a fear or phobia from a close relative as a function of repeated, chronic exposure to the behaviour.

Regardless of the specific fear an individual has, its symptoms can have a significant impairment on the person’s life and day to day functioning can be severely limited. Because the onset of phobias (especially social phobias), is usually during adolescence, when untreated, there is a likelihood of dropping out of school and experiencing a decreased quality of life.

“A parent who consulted us for treatment for her son, who had gradually decreased school attendance, was somewhat unaware of her own heightened social fear that restricted her behaviours to home and work for years. The son’s own anxiety was further exacerbated by the onset of puberty, transition to highschool and the development of compensatory behaviours such as excessive computer and video gaming activities. Eventually, school staff negotiated a reduced class schedule which, inadvertently, affirmed the problem. Through the assessment process using both the cognitive behavioural and systems lenses, changes in thoughts and behaviours helped this student to gradually improve school attendance and social involvement. His mother also became more socially involved throughout the therapeutic process.”

There are many approaches involved in reducing phobias, so it is important to create a treatment plan (which may include a combination of different therapies) that can serve you best:

  • Systems theory helps identify multiple factors contributing to a problem and quite accurately informs change options and solutions
  • Psychotherapeutic treatments (such as free association) attempt to uncover repressed conflicts that are assumed to be the underlying explanations for extreme fear and avoidance.
  • Systemic desensitization (exposure to specific fears while increasing the state of improved relaxation) has shown to eliminate or at least reduce phobias.
  • Depending on the severity of anxiety developed from phobias, some medications may be prescribed for fear-induced symptoms (e.g., sedatives, tranquilizers, or barbiturates).
  •  Cognitive techniques paired with social skills training (safe exposure to phobia-induced environments) can lessen people’s reaction to their phobias as well as enhance people’s sense of self-worth.

You may find it becomes necessary to seek professional help to gain a thorough understanding of a specific phobia or area of anxiety and how it impacts your life. For professional and confidential help contact us today!

 Photo credit: Prawny from

Expecting Unexpectedly?

At Jeff Packer MSW & Associates, we help young mothers and fathers cope with unexpected pregnancy. It is still the norm that young mothers are more open to getting assistance, partly due to differences in gender socialization. Males are still unfortunately under-trained when it comes to the importance of getting help in personal matters. They are therefore less likely to ask for help and often quite reluctant even when they fully understand they have quite limited information; I like to call this BWS or “Bruce Willis Syndrome”… I can solve this myself… I don’t need any help!

Common concerns that younger parents have, yet mothers mainly seek help with include: fear of telling their parents, fear of the labour process, limited information and resources, financial strain, being the topic of rumours or disappointment remarks, worry about not being able to pursue goals and being in a difficult or uncommitted, even hurtful romantic relationship. We help young parents-to-be work through these fears, strengthen support systems, identify and utilize strengths and resources, coach parenting skills and provide communication training to best prepare them for parenthood.

It is common in Western civilized cultures to hear more of the negative side about teen pregnancy or pregnancies out of wedlock. With reality TV shows like “Teen Mom” or “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant,” society sends a debilitating message about the female gender. This negativity reinforces fear in young mothers.

Here is a brief posting of a young woman who decided to create a world of positivity toward her unplanned pregnancy.

“I am young, not in a stable relationship, and not in my chosen career. Oh! And I’m pregnant. Sounds like a great life to me; not necessarily the life I envisioned, but it is still a great life.

Fear, anxiety, and worry will try to pop up every now and then, but my coping strategies have not failed me. I turn to my higher power for strength. I keep only those who will stay supportive and positive around me. Each day, I do things to take care of myself, keeping my little peanut top of mind. My mind is at ease. My faith is strong. Positivity allows me to stay in action. I am not blind to the challenges I face. I remain calm and hesitate the feeling of being defeated. “I can do this!’ I repeat to myself as I need to.”

We trust this post provides hope to expecting mothers and fathers as well.  To enhance your path to healthy and happy parenthood, Call us today

Appreciating Fear  

Snakes-Spiders-Heights-Flying-Being Alone-Social Settings-Failure-Conflict-Rejection-Low Blood Sugars-Success-Failure

Can you imagine how you would drive with no fear or too much fear?  A healthy level of fear gives us guidance; puts some caution in our approach; directs us away from danger.

Fear, defined by Wikipedia, is “an emotion induced by a perceived threat which causes entities to quickly pull far away from it and usually hide.” Side effects from pulling away from some of our fears may be: (1) feeling anxiety with the anticipation of having to face our fears, (2) missing out on opportunities which may promote growth and development, or (3) creating friction in our relationships as we hide from certain situation.

Psychology Today describes fear as a “vital response to physical and emotional danger.” And it is a necessity to feel this emotion to protect ourselves from legitimate threats. If we created a list of all of our fears, how many are legitimate threats?

We all enter this world with a positive perspective. We explore our environment like a fun playground, full of adventure and ready to conquer.  Unfortunately trauma and other bad experiences may trigger fear within us that we hold on to because we have not overcome such horrible experiences.

Ever look at the word FEAR like this:





If fear becomes overwhelming it may be considered anxiety. One strategy to address this problem is called systematic desensitization: “diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it” (thanks Wiki). Exposure to our own personal fears or “demons” in a safe environment is an effective way to move past them.

Contact us today to receive coaching to more effectively work through your fears.

Managing life as a teenager, student/employee, parent, and all other roles we may play in our lives, is extremely difficult when we have overwhelming feelings of worry, uncertainty, stress, and fear.

One person describes his anxiety like this:

“I am a person on a totally different planet. I am very unhappy and unaware of my current environment. I become a person who is not me.”

The central component of anxiety is heightened fear. Fear of your environment, fear of social settings, fear of being judged, and fear of your own thoughts. As a result of this fear, many people do not seek help for their anxiety. However, seeking help reduces your fear and will help to reduce your anxiety.

With therapy, we may assist you in creating effective strategies to cope with your anxiety symptoms. Counselling may also help you identify the underlying factors (thoughts, feelings, and behaviours) associated with your anxiety.

Contact us today – Beat your fears! Beat your anxiety!